French Cemeteries


AIF Burial Ground, Grass Lane, Flers
Anzac Cemetery, Sailly-sur-la-Lys
Sailly sur-la-Lys Canadian Cemetery
Bazentin-le-Petit Communal Cemetery Extension
Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery
Béthune Town Cemetery
Bourlon Wood Cemetery
Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez
Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery
Etaples Military Cemetery
London Cemetery and Extension, High Wood, Longueval
Ranville War Cemetery
St Pierre Cemetery, Amiens
St Sever Cemetery and Extension, Rouen
Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille
Toronto Cemetery, Demuin
Wimereux Communal Cemetery

AIF Burial Ground, Grass Lane, Flers

The village of Flers, almost in the middle of the battlefields of the Rivers Ancre and Somme, is about four miles south-west of Bapaume. Australian medical units stationed in caves in the vicinity (the local name is Aux Cavées) opened a cemetery known as the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) Burial Ground to receive those who were dying in the autumn of 1916. On 15th September 1916, the 41st and New Zealand Divisions entered the village during the battle of Flers-Courcelette in which the British invented tanks were used for the first time -- with great local success. The Germans retook the village in March 1918, and it finally fell to Commonwealth troops in August of that year.

This is a concentration cemetery and it was greatly enlarged after the war by bringing in burials from the battlefields and small burial sites. A large proportion of the burials are not identified by name. There are now 2,800 British, 70 Canadian, over 400 Australian, 90 New Zealand and 30 South African burials in the cemetery.

spacer Anzac Cemetery, Sailly-sur-la-Lys

Sailly is in the Pas-de-Calais, between Merville and Armentieres. Its church was burnt in the fluid fighting of October 1914 but from then until the spring of 1918 the village was comparatively unharmed. The Germans captured the village on 9th April 1918 and it remained in their hands until early September.

Anzac Cemetery is half a mile from Sailly on the road to Estaires, (where there was a Commission office in charge of the so-called Estaires Area of the Commission until the 1970s) and was begun by Australian units in July 1916, immediately before the attack on Fromelles. It contains many who died in that engagement, and continued to be used as a front line cemetery until April 1918 when it was used by the Germans for the burial of British soldiers. It was used again by the British when they re-occupied the village. It contains 110 Australian, 170 British and 10 New Zealand burials. It has a Cross of Sacrifice near the entrance but no Stone of Remembrance.

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spacer Sailly sur-la-Lys Canadian Cemetery

The Canadian Cemetery is on the opposite side of the road from Anzac Cemetery -- the two entrances are opposite each other. It was begun by Canadian units in March 1915 and used as a frontline cemetery until July 1916. It contains 10 Canadian, 285 British and 20 Australian burials. To complement Anzac Cemetery, it has a Stone of Remembrance at the rear but no Cross of Sacrifice.

The inclusion of 'Canadian' in the title is interesting as it shows clearly that the first unit to use a cemetery normally gave the site its name and this was kept and honoured by later users and by the Commission. What is not clear is why the Australians opened their cemetery on the other side of the road when this one was already in existence--perhaps there was a lack of suitable ground for expansion as there were many trenches and dugouts in the area. But it could also have been due to troops of these two countries not being too fond of one another; Haig was reported as ordering their units to be separated by British units.

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spacer Bazentin-le-Petit Communal Cemetery Extension

Bazentin is five miles to the north-east of Albert in the Somme and the Communal Cemetery is to the east of the village; the war graves Extension adjoins it. The village was held by the Germans until 14th July 1916, when the 3rd and 7th Divisions captured Bazentin-le-Petit and neighbouring Bazentin-le-Grand. The ground was lost in April 1918 but recaptured on 25th August by the 38th (Welsh) Division.

The Communal Cemetery Extension was begun immediately after the capture of the village and used until December 1916 as a front line cemetery. It was enlarged after the Armistice by the addition of 50 burials from the surrounding battlefield. The fact that it was indeed a front line cemetery is evident in its layout, which is perhaps as ragged as any in the Commission's care. There is only one recognizable row of any length -- this is Row B, which contains nearly 30 burials, probably among those brought in after the war. Fifty-nine graves, mainly of the 1st Battalion, the Northampton Regiment, were destroyed by shelling and the burials are now commemorated by special memorials, 36 along the wall near the entrance and the remainder along the wall at the rear. Over 50 of the burials are not identified by name. The Extension (which in common with most extensions looks like, and is considered to be, one of the Commission's constructed sites) now contains 180 British burials, five Canadian and one Australian. One of the Canadians, Private Frederick Charles Daffin of the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles (lst Central Ontario Regiment) was married to a lady with a Buffalo, New York, USA, address and was a native of London, England. It could be said that it took three nations to make this soldier!

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spacer Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery

The village of Bény-sur-Mer lies about nine miles north-west of Caen and two miles from the beaches near Courseulles where the Canadian 3rd Division landed on D Day, 6th June 1944. On that day, over 300 soldiers of the division died. Most of them, and other Canadians who died in later stages of the Battle of Normandy, are buried in the war cemetery, which in fact is near the village of Reviers, a mile from Bény. The cemetery contains over 2,000 Canadian burials. This cemetery, and Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery, contain most of the Canadian dead of the Normandy Campaign.

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spacer Béthune Town Cemetery

Béthune is about 20 miles north-west of Arras, and during the 1914-1918 War was an important military and hospital centre, No 33 Casualty Clearing Station being established here until the end of 1917. In the Battle of Béthune German forces advanced to within three miles of the town on 18th April 1918, and on 21st May it was heavily bombarded. Subsequently, there was almost constant shelling, ending only when the Germans withdrew in October. The Commonwealth graves are in the northern end of this civil cemetery. They include 26 soldiers of the Manchester Regiment who were killed by a bomb while marching to rest billets on 22nd December 1917. There are nearly 3,000 British, 55 Canadian, and 90 German burials from the 1914-1918 War. The cemetery also contains another 15 British and two Canadians of the 1939-1945 War, who died in the retreat of 1940 or the advance of 1944.

The grave of Lieutenant F.A. de Pass VC is in this cemetery. The personal inscription on his headstone is from a sonnet by his Rugby school-fellow, Sub Lieutenant Rupert Brooke, RNVR, who is buried on the Isle of Skyros, Greece. It reads: '... LOVED, GONE PROUDLY FRIENDED'.

The recording of a small group of British war graves here in 1914 was one of the first acts of the British Red Cross Society's Mobile Unit. From this there grew the Graves Registration and Enquiries Department of the Army and from it the Imperial (later Commonwealth) War Graves Commission. In one sense, therefore, this cemetery can be considered as holding the honour of being the Commission's first cemetery. However, as has been seen, the first three cemeteries to be constructed were Le Treport, Forceville and Louvencourt, also in France.

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spacer Bourlon Wood Cemetery

Bourlon is a village in the Pas-de-Calais, between the roads from Cambrai to Arras and Bapaume, and about five miles from the former; the wood is on the village's south-east side. There was heavy fighting in the village and wood in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917, the 40th (Bantam), 62nd (West Riding) and the Guards Divisions bearing the brunt. The British troops were withdrawn at the end of the battle, but the wood and church were retaken, after more fierce fighting, by two Canadian Divisions, the 3rd and 4th on 27th September 1917. Bourlon Wood Cemetery was opened by the Canadian Corps Burial Officer in October 1918 and contains many burials of this heavy and successful fighting. It now contains 230 Canadian burials, 15 British and three from the Chinese Labour Corps buried close to the right hand wall. Nearby is the Bourlon Battlefield Memorial erected by the Canadian Government in honour of the forcing of the Canal du Nord by the Canadian Corps on 27th September 1918 and the subsequent advance to Mons, Belgium, and ultimately to the River Rhine in Germany. Many of the trees in the memorial area still bear their battle scars in the late 1980s; the trees are carefully preserved.

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spacer Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez

The village of Souchez and the war cemetery lie seven miles north of Arras, on the main road to Béthune. The village was completely destroyed in the 1914-1918 War. The Cabaret Rouge was a small cafe, so-called because of its distinctive red bricks and roof; it was destroyed in May 1915. Its name was taken for the sector of the front and a communication trench held here by the French and taken over by the British in March 1916. The cemetery is near the site of the cafe and was begun that month by the 47th (London) Division and the Canadian Corps. The original burials are in Plots I to V inclusive. After the war, more than 7,000 dead were brought in from small cemeteries and individual graves on the battlefields of Arras and other places in the Departments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais.

The cemetery has the third largest number of Commonwealth burials in France, containing 6,800 British, 750 Canadian, over 100 Australian, over 40 South African and 15 Indian burials. The majority are unidentified by name. Behind the Cross of Sacrifice, there is a hill crowned by (as it was known in the war) Gazoy Wood. It held the entrance to Cabaret Rouge trench and was used as an observation post.

The cemetery and the massive domed shelter building at the entrance were designed by Frank Higginson, then the architect for France, who, as Sir Frank Higginson, was later Secretary to the Commission (after Sir Fabian Ware). Higginson served in the Canadian Army on the Western Front in the 1914-1918 War. Exceptionally, a bronze plaque in his memory and explaining that he designed the cemetery was placed in the shelter building.

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Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery

The cemetery is in the Commune of Hautot-sur-Mer, about two miles south of Dieppe. It will always be linked with Canada, for in the Dieppe Raid that took place on 19th August 1942 nearly 5,000 Canadians took part (of a total of just over 6,000). More than 3,600 Allied troops were killed, wounded, missing or captured, while the naval losses were 550. Many of those who died are buried in the cemetery which contains nearly 700 Canadian burials and over 200 British, with small numbers of Australian, New Zealand and Indian. Those 40 Canadians who died in landing craft or ships and were brought back to Britain are buried in two rows in Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey. Those who died and have no known graves are commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial in that cemetery.

A proportion of the British dead date from 1940; one of them was a woman Brigadier of the Salvation Army, M.J. Climpson, who died on 20th May of that year.

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spacer Etaples Military Cemetery

Etaples is a port in the Pas-de-Calais and this large cemetery is outside the town. The cemetery has been seen by generations of passengers travelling on the nearby main railway line from Calais to Paris, the usual route for land travellers from Britain to the Continent. It is the second largest war cemetery in France, with nearly 11,000 burials. Etaples Cemetery was used throughout the 1914-1918 War, as the area held a large number of reinforcement camps and 16 hospitals. The area was again in use by the British Army in 1939 and the cemetery from January to May 1940. The great majority of the burials of both the wars are of those who died of wounds or disease in the hospitals; it is therefore not surprising that the majority are identified by name.

The cemetery contains nearly 9,000 British burials, nearly 1,200 Canadian, 470 Australian, 260 New Zealand, 70 South African, 30 Indian and 30 from other Commonwealth countries. Included in these figures are 70 British and five Canadian burials from the 1939-1945 War.

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spacer London Cemetery and Extension, High Wood, Longueval

The cemetery is in the Department of the Somme and the nearby wood (known locally as the Bois des Fourcaux, but as High Wood to the soldiers) crowns a low but dominating hill which formed part of the main German defence line from the Flers Ridge to Thiepval during the First Battle of the Somme in 1916. The cemetery is a mile north-west of Longueval, itself about seven miles north-east of Albert. There was much loss of life on both sides for possession of the hill and its High Wood.

On 18th and 21st September 1916, in the middle of the Battle of the Somme, the 47th (London) Division buried 47 of their dead in a large shell crater opposite the wood. Fifty other bodies were later brought in, mainly of soldiers who had died on 15th September 1916, the day the London Division cleared the wood of the enemy. This small burial place was known as London Cemetery, and in 1934 it was extended to take nearly 4,000 burials from the surrounding battlefields. Understandably, most of these were now unidentifiable by name. The original cemetery is between the entrance gates and the shelter building; all the burials are to the left of the gates. An inscription on a stone states that 78 of the soldiers whose names are on the surrounding headstones are known to be buried close by, although the exact grave location is not known, as this spot, as mentioned earlier, had been a shell crater.

There are also the graves of soldiers of the 51st (Highland) Division who died in June 1940, fighting for the River Somme crossings, and others who died with British Second Army four years later. There are 3,350 British burials, 170 Canadian, 300 Australian, over 30 from both New Zealand and South Africa from the 1914-1918 War, and 160 British and three Canadian from the 1939-1945 War.

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spacer Ranville War Cemetery

Ranville, seven miles north-east of Caen and near the Normandy coast, was the first village to be liberated on 6th June 1944. The cemetery contains the graves of soldiers of the British 6th Airborne Division who landed by glider and parachute nearby to take the vital bridges over the River Orne and the Caen Canal. It lies next to the village churchyard, where there are 50 British burials. An old mill was on the site when the cemetery was begun; it has been reconstructed and is now used as the gardeners' toolshed. The cemetery contains over 2,000 British burials, 80 Canadian, small numbers of other countries and, in Plots VI and VII, over 100 Germans.

In the village churchyard is the grave of Lieutenant H.D. Brotheridge, Mentioned in Despatches, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, who was probably the first Commonwealth soldier to be killed in the invasion.

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spacer St Pierre Cemetery, Amiens

Amiens is the main city of the Department of the Somme. The cathedral, one of the largest in the world, was the first in which tablets were erected to the memory of the million servicemen of the British Commonwealth and Empire who died in the 1914-1918 War. At Amiens there are separate tablets commemorating the dead of Britain and Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, and Newfoundland. In other cathedrals where such tablets have been erected, the design combines the arms of the various countries on a single memorial.

During the 1914-1918 War, Amiens was an important British base and hospital centre until January 1919, and one of the main objectives of the German offensive which started on 21st March 1918. That it did not fall was largely due to the stand made by the Australians at Villers-Bretonneux, some five miles to the east, and site of the Memorial of that name.

St Pierre Cemetery, which contains a large French National Plot, is on the north side of the road to Albert; the British Plot was first used in September 1915 and closed in October 1919. It contains 560 British burials, 10 Canadian, over 90 Australian, and small numbers of others. Amiens was heavily bombed by both the Germans and the Allies and was taken by German armoured forces on 20th May 1940 during the sweep to the Channel coast. It remained in German hands until 31st August 1944, when it was liberated by the British Second Army. The Commonwealth section of the cemetery was opened again for Commonwealth burials (mainly of airmen) in March 1941 and they number 60 British, 12 Canadian, and nine Australian.

Among those buried in the cemetery are Group Captain P.C. Pickard DSO and two Bars DFC RAF and Flight Lieutenant ).A. Broadley DSO DFC DFM RAF. They died in Operation Jericho, the brilliant low level attack of 18th February 1944 that breached the walls of Amiens prison and freed over 250 prisoners, many held for political reasons. The nine soldiers who are included in the 60 British burials were killed during the liberation of Amiens.

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spacer St Sever Cemetery and Extension, Rouen

Rouen is the old capital of Normandy and the place where William the Conqueror died. In the 19I4-1918 War, the city was a British base and about 16 hospitals were established in the southern outskirts. Most of those who died here were buried in St Sever Cemetery or, from September 1916, in the Extension which lies south of it and was last used in April 1920.

There are also over 300 burials (260 British, 40 Canadian) from the 1939-1945 War. Some were killed during the German advance on Rouen, which they took on 9th June 1940; others were Canadians who died of wounds sustained at Dieppe on l9th August 1942; and others were British who died in the capture of Le Havre between 10th and 12th September 1944. The Cemetery and the Extension, which adjoin, together contain (including those of 1939-1945) over 9,600 British, 500 Canadian, 900 Australian, 200 New Zealand, 100 South African, 350 Indian and 90 British West Indian burials -- a total of nearly 11,800. This cemetery and its extension have, therefore, the melancholy distinction of being the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in France, surpassed only anywhere by Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium, which has 200 more. Being a hospital cemetery, the great majority of the burials are known, whereas two thirds of those at Tyne Cot, a battle and concentration cemetery, are unidentified by name. Unusually, but not uniquely, St Sever Cemetery has separate plots for officers.

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spacer Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille

Terlincthun is a village two miles from Boulogne. The cemetery contains the graves of men who died in hospital in Boulogne and Wimereux (the cemeteries there being full) the first being buried on 16th June 1918 and the last in July 1920. After the 1939-1945 War, however, the cemetery was re-opened for the burial of the bodies of Commonwealth soldiers who were still (and are still) being found accidentally on the 1914-1918 War battlefields in France. It is also used for the burial of soldiers and airmen of the 1940 Campaign who are found in northern France (those of the Normandy Campaign are buried in St Charles de Percy War Cemetery, Normandy). The largest number buried at one time in recent years were the 49 British and two Germans who were found at Ovillers-la-Boisselle, in the Department of the Somme, in November 1982. None could be identified by name, but the fact that the British were from five regiments was established. Terlincthun will continue as an 'open' cemetery, probably well into the twenty-first century.

In the late 1980s, the cemetery contained 3,900 British, 320 Canadian, 120 Australian, 30 New Zealand, 40 South African and eight Indian burials.

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Toronto Cemetery, Demuin

The cemetery is a mile north of the village of Demuin. It is located deep in farming fields about a mile from the nearest main road, and is very isolated. It was begun by the 3rd Canadian Battalion (Toronto Regiment) in August 1918 and also used by other Canadian units for burials that month. It contains 75 Canadian burials, 20 British (some of whom died in the previous March), one Australian and four German.

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spacer Wimereux Communal Cemetery

Wimereux is a town in the Pas-de-Calais, on the coast about three miles north of Boulogne. From October 1914 until the end of the war, Wimereux and Boulogne formed an important hospital centre. Until June 1918 the medical units at Wimereux buried their dead in the Communal Cemetery north of the town; the south-eastern half of this cemetery was reserved for Commonwealth graves.

There are 2,300 British burials, over 200 each of Canadians and Australians, 80 New Zealand, 10 South African and 20 British West Indian. There is also a German plot with over 170 burials. About a dozen British burials were added in the 1939-1945 War. The nature of the ground -- mainly its inherent instability -- necessitated recumbent markers, an unusual feature. Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, which contains 6,000 Commonwealth burials, also has recumbent markers.

At Wimereux is buried the Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, author of the poem In Flanders Fields. In his memory, a committee presented a seat, next to the road-side wall of the cemetery, and inscribed on it a verse from the poem.

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spacer The text on this page has been taken from Courage Remembered, by Kingsley Ward and Major Edwin Gibson.

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